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'Behind The Smile' is a novel of the moving story of Lek, a bar girl in Pattaya, Thailand. It tells, from her point of view, how she drifted into the sex tourism industry and how she tried for years to get out of it again.
The story tells of some of things that happened to her and her colleagues in the bar they worked in called 'Daddy's Hobby', but it also tells of her thoughts for her friends, her family and her 'boyfriends' - the customers.
When she finally finds someone she can love and who loves her too, she agonizes over whether she will ever be able to stay with one man again after ten years of complete sexual and financial freedom with no-one to care for but herself.
The situation is further aggravated because her boyfriend does not suspect what she used to do for a living. Or does he really?
The title of this novel is based on the fact that Thailand is commonly referred to as 'The Land of Smiles'.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Behind The Smile
Lek, the eldest child in a typical rice-farming family, did not hope for anything more than the other girls in her village: work in the fields for a few years; have a few babies; let mum take care of them and go back to work until they had their own children and it was her turn to take care of them.
Suddenly, her father died with debts that the family knew nothing about. Lek was twenty and the only one who could prevent foreclosure. However, the only way she knew was to work in a bar in Pattaya.
She went as a waitress, but when she became pregnant, things had to change.
She had the baby, gave it to her mother and went back to work. However, needing more money now, she drifted into the sex industry.
The book relates her 'adventures', her dreams and nightmares. It shows, from Lek's position, what it's like to be a bar girl - the hopes and frustrations, the hopes and the let-downs, the hopes and the deceit that are part of her every-day life.
One day, she meets a man she likes and he likes her too. Nothing new there, but she feels that it is different this time. They have a wonderful holiday and then he goes home - as they all had, leaving more promises and more hopes.
This one returns, but real life with a real boyfriend is not as easy as she had dreamed it would be.
After all she has been through, can she be a normal girlfriend or wife again? Could she ever trust a man enough? Or would she be better off giving up her dreams and just working in the bar?
Lek begins to learn that getting what you want is not always all you hoped for.
Personal Anecdotes: Behind The Smile really started in my decades ago when I lived in a bedsit, where many other rooms were occupied by working girls. During the same time, I also worked in a bar where many sailors drank. However, I did not actually put pen to paper on the subject until I went to Pattaya and became friendly with (and trusted by) the girls in one bar. Have called the bar 'Daddy's Hobby' after a 'relax' bar I used to know in Den Bosch, The Netherlands.
Local Interest: Most of the female characters work in Pattaya, Thailand and some of the male characters come from Barry, South Wales, but the book will be of interest to anyone who goes to South-East Asia, any spouse who has been affected by a trip to SE Asia and anyone interested in sex tourism or prostitution.
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